Letters: your views 2/11/21


BVSD Equitable School Day a bust for elementary families

BVSD plans to have most elementary schools start at 7:45 a.m. to ensure all students have the same amount of instructional time (seven hours), while keeping transportation costs neutral and maintaining a late start for high school students. In conjunction, BVSD proposed a late start on Wednesdays for teacher planning purposes.

 Working families bear the brunt of this change with increased childcare costs linked to before and after care, less time with their kids (the work day was not adjusted) and disrupted sleep schedules. Primary caregivers (often women) will bear the weight of managing this change.

Anecdotal parent response is unfavorable but BVSD is unphased. Its feedback forum Let’s Talk offers a survey asking parents what support they might need, but don’t offer parents a way to indicate if they are in favor of the move. The same forum accepts questions, but questions and responses are moderated, allowing for censorship of parent opinion. 

 Research on the effect of early start times for younger learners is still in its infancy but there are indicators early start times negatively influence school performance for some demographics. Rob Price, assistant superintendent of operations at BVSD, responded to concern with the advice that younger students may “more easily adjust their sleep schedules to get the recommended amount of sleep compared to adolescents.” Science does agree that elementary aged kids need between nine to 12 hours of sleep a night, making a 7:45 a.m. start difficult to achieve for most families (thanks for that parenting advice though).

 Adding to the burden on families, on Wednesdays, schools will participate in a late start (8:45 a.m.). Disruptive to young kids sense of order and routine, this will also force families to find/plan for childcare as kids this age are generally unable to walk/get themselves to school.

For a district struggling with low elementary enrollment due to the cost of living in Boulder, this plan discourages enrollment in local schools while asking more from resource-strapped parents. Comments on the plan can be emailed to Rob Price at rob.price@bvsd.org

 Chandra Hardwicke/Boulder

Biden must reform BLM

President Biden signed an executive order with the commendable goal of protecting 30% of our nation’s lands and waters by 2030. If achieved, this would be a significant response to the mounting climate and extinction crises.

The largest chunks of federal lands are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), particularly here in the West. BLM could therefore play a key role in whether this protection goal is met. Unfortunately, BLM cannot currently fulfill this role because it has repeatedly demonstrated that it cannot protect its lands that already have protective legal designations.   

Despite strong public opposition and science against it, BLM continues to allow harmful commercial livestock grazing and other uses in many of its national monuments, national conservation areas, wilderness areas and areas of critical environmental concern. For example, BLM recently approved a controversial Northern Corridor Highway through its Red Cliffs National Conservation Area in southwest Utah. This approval likely violates several laws, conflicts with the statutory conservation purposes of this area, degrades lands acquired for permanent protection, and would jeopardize threatened Mojave desert tortoises and destroy their legally designated critical habitat.

Before I took early retirement, I worked for BLM as a planning and environmental coordinator from 2002 to 2017. I learned the sad truth that BLM’s dominant management culture is regressive, biased and secretive. This culture is deeply embedded and persisted during the eight Obama administration years.  Managers tend to be most afraid of Republican politicians, influential commercial interests and angry ranchers. They are risk-averse and willing to allow political expediency to supersede the law and science.  This results in “protection” as words on legal documents but not necessarily as actual outcomes.     

President Biden must fundamentally reform BLM’s dominant management culture. Managers who put crass political calculations and their own “multiple use” biases over the law, science and public interest should be removed. As should managers who fail to deal with harmful uses such as trespass grazing or are unable to reverse downward resource trends under their control. If this reform is successful, BLM lands designated for protection could actually receive it. Without this reform, much of any claimed BLM progress on this protection would be a fraudulent illusion.   

Richard Spotts/Utah

Gun ownership

With increasing cultural and economic anxiety and a Democratic president and Congress, gun sales are up again under the insistence of a sacred right to arm oneself for personal protection. Despite rising gun violence, any hint of regulation will be resisted. The gun culture is so strong in the American psyche that one should not be surprised if tribal AK47 and Glock totems begin appearing in both rural and gated communities, and it seems we will now need metal detectors not only in schools but also in nursing homes. The great shame is that this is not a national embarrassment.

Robert Porath/Boulder

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